What if God is not Father but Mother, or both? What if God is not even a parental figure at all?… Rather than posing a straightforward answer to Mary Daly’s implicit question of what lies beyond God the Father, perhaps the most generative way of engaging with divine motherhood is to ask how it might invite us to fundamentally alter what we mean by motherhood and what we mean by divinity.
For the main page of the forum, see here, where newly published pieces will appear in the weeks ahead.
Professor Boon Wins 2019 SMFS Prize for Best Article
Dr. Jessica Boon, Associate Professor in Religious Studies, has won the 2019 Prize for Best Article of Feminist Scholarship on the Middle Ages from the Society for Feminist Medieval Scholarship. This prize is awarded every two years (in odd numbered years) and was “established in 2004 as a way for the Society for Feminist Medieval Scholarship to recognize outstanding scholarly contributions.” The prize includes a monetary award and will be officially presented at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May.
Professor Boon’s winning article, titled “At the Limits of (Trans)Gender: Jesus, Mary, and the Angels in the Visionary Sermons of Juana de la Cruz (1481–1534),” was published in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies in 2018 and explores the visionary sermons of Juana de la Cruz through the more precise analytical categories derived from contemporary approaches to gender. To read the article, click here.
Bart Ehrman on “Faith in Our Lives: Why We Follow” and “The Triumph of Christianity”
On March 10, PlayMakers Repertory Company hosted a symposium, “Faith in Our Lives: Why We Follow,” with UNC’s Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, and Robert M. Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Prof. Ehrman and Prof. Franklin discussed how faith and belief serve us both personally and collectively, as well as what may be at risk when doctrine plays too little or too large a role in our lives. The symposium was moderated by Adam Versényi, Chair of UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art and Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company.
The latest book by Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, is a volume of his essays titled It’s Not Just Academic! Essays on Sufism and Islamic Studies (Sage, 2017). From the Sage Publishing website:
“This collection of articles by Carl W. Ernst summarizes over 30 years of research, recovering and illuminating remarkable examples of Islamic culture that have been largely overlooked, if not forgotten. It opens with reflections on teaching Islam, focusing on major themes such as Sufism, the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, and Arabic literature. The importance of public scholarship and the questionable opposition between Islam and the West are also addressed. The articles that follow explore multiple facets of Sufism, the ethical and spiritual tradition that has flourished in Muslim societies for over a thousand years. The cumulative effect is to move away from static Orientalist depictions of Sufism and Islam through a series of vivid and creative case studies.”
“I cannot assert strongly enough the groundbreaking moves made in Negotiating Respect. Thornton challenges our now settled critical orthodoxies as what counts as radical and subversive scholarship by taking seriously the diverse practices of Caribbean Christianity…. The stakes for the field of Caribbean studies are high. Thornton asks us to complicate our reading of quotidian religious practices: so, that we might see that ‘the church has become more norm than exception, more local than foreign, more orthodox than heterodox, more accepted than disdained.’”
The latest book by Randall Styers, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, is a volume of collected essays (co-edited with Edward Bever of SUNY Old Westbury) titled Magic in the Modern World: Strategies of Repression and Legitimization (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017). In addition to co-editing the entire volume, Prof. Styers contributes an essay to the collection on “Bad Habits, or, How Superstition Disappeared in the Modern World.” From the Penn State University Press website:
“This collection of essays considers the place of magic in the modern world, first by exploring the ways in which modernity has been defined in explicit opposition to magic and superstition, and then by illuminating how modern proponents of magic have worked to legitimize their practices through an overt embrace of evolving forms such as esotericism and supernaturalism.
“Taking a two-track approach, this book explores the complex dynamics of the construction of the modern self and its relation to the modern preoccupation with magic. Essays examine how modern ‘rational’ consciousness is generated and maintained and how proponents of both magical and scientific traditions rationalize evidence to fit accepted orthodoxy. This book also describes how people unsatisfied with the norms of modern subjectivity embrace various forms of magic—and the methods these modern practitioners use to legitimate magic in the modern world.”
The volume also includes a contribution by one of our PhD alumni, Megan Goodwin, titled “Manning the High Seat: Seidr as Self-Making in Contemporary Norse Neopaganisms.”
Online Symposium on David Lambert’s How Repentance Became Biblical
Syndicate Network, an online forum for facilitating conversations on topics in the humanities, is currently hosting an online symposium on Prof. David Lambert’s award-winning book, How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2016).
The symposium consists of critical reviews of the book by four scholars of different theoretical perspectives, with subsequent responses by Prof. Lambert leading to further back-and-forth dialogue. This format allows for an in-depth, illuminating exploration of the many issues that the book raises.
The online symposium can be found here. Currently the site has posted the responses of Joel Kaminsky (Smith College) and Susanne Scholz (Southern Methodist University); the responses of Reed Carlson (Harvard Divinity School) and Jeffrey Stackert (University of Chicago) are still to come.
For an extensive two-part debate (hosted by the “Unbelievable?” radio program) with Richard Bauckham on the relationship of the New Testament Gospels to eyewitness testimony, see the following links: [part 1][part 2]
The following is a 28-minute interview (with the American Freethought podcast) in which Prof. Ehrman discusses some of the main points of the book (the actual interview begins at the 2:44 mark; see also YouTube):
The latest book from Carl Ernst, William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor in Religious Studies, is Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga (Sage Publications/Yoda Press, 2016), a collection of some two dozen essays published over Professor Ernst’s decades-long career. From Sage Publications:
“The essays explore Sufism as it developed in the Indian subcontinent, including translations of previously unavailable texts, and revealing unexpected insights into the lives, practices, and teachings of Indian Muslims over nearly a thousand years. They also trace remarkable moments in the history of Muslim engagement with Indian religious and cultural practices. This includes not only Muslim participation in Indian art and literature, but also the extraordinary role that Sufis have played in the practice of yoga. Employing new approaches to religious studies that avoid essentialism and ideological concepts of religion, and shorn of unnecessary jargon, these compelling essays will be easily accessible to a larger audience.”